Disclaimer: Yeah, still don't own Naruto.. Go figure.
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As usual, unbeta'd until Dragon gets freed up in Rl.
"She frowned at me. "You need some rest. You look like hell. And you're obviously tired enough to have gotten the giggles."
Wizards don't giggle," I said, hardly able to speak. "This is cackling."
― Jim Butcher, Changes
Temari was laying in a comfortable position on the bed fresh from her bath as she waited for Naruto and her promised massage. She wasn't exactly sure that she deserved a massage after the events of the previous week but since her feet and back hurt, she wasn't going to say no. While the experience wasn't pleasant, it had highlighted some flaws in their relationship that Temari was determined to fix. She'd obviously overreacted to events but Naruto's inability to approach her afterwards was troubling but understandable. She sighed in frustration as she considered ways to explain to her husband that he needed to talk with her in the future when she was upset. Given his stunted social skills, she was probably going to have to flat out tell him that. It went against her normal instincts, shinobi and kunoichi were suppose to be subtle, but sometimes the only way to get through to Naruto was to be blunt. It did at least have the advantage of being simple.
The sound of something impacting against the window dragged her from her thoughts and she grumbled under her breath as she left the comfort of the bed. Wrapping her robe tighter around herself she crossed the room and pulled the curtains aside to look outside. It took her eyes a moment to adjust but she gasped in surprise to see Naruto laying face-down in the garden. Cursing she moved as quickly as her swollen stomach allowed as she grabbed her newly repaired fan and tore open the door to the balcony outside their room before she froze and reconsidered. The facts of what she knew of the situation, few that they were, ran through her mind and screamed trap to her.
Stepping back and closing the door, she considered her options carefully. Naruto, if that even was Naruto, probably needed help but rushing outside with the possibility of a trap was foolish. Stealthily making her way downstairs her fan held defensively, she made it to the backdoor without any encounters. Easing the door open, she slid outside and paused to scan her surroundings carefully. Gritting her teeth and keeping her guard up, she carefully moved into the garden and approached Naruto's body. Eyes still scanning the darkness around her, she toed him gently confirming that the body wasn't just an illusion. Still being cautious, she carefully knelt and checked Naruto's throat for a pulse. To her relief, Naruto was still alive and appeared to be uninjured but it seemed unlikely that he would choose to just sleep in the garden face-down.
Unwilling to drop her guard to haul him inside and unsure that she even could given her current very pregnant state, she decided she needed help. Not seeing any of the foxes in the area, she bite her thumb and quietly summoned herself some help.
When the smoke from the summoning cleared, Temari found herself facing a very familiar orange toad wearing a blue jacket. Before she could say anything, Gamakichi's eyes focused on Naruto.
"Naruto-aniki, what happened to you," he called out far louder than Temari wanted.
"Quiet!" Temari hissed at the toad. "I don't know what happened and I'm not sure that whoever did this isn't still around." Having gotten Gamakichi's full attention, Temari quickly explained what she knew. "So, what I need you to do is go get the Hokage and tell her what I just told you. Can you do that?"
Gamakichi gave her a withering look. "Temari-aneki, I know you're new to the Toad contract so I'll let that slide but you should know that us Toads are more than capable of simply being messengers. It's very insulting that you implied I might not be able to do such a simple task. Like I said, I'll let it go but you should know that there are other Toads that might really take offense if you do it again in the future." Giving Temari a wave, Gamakichi hopped off towards the village at a fast pace.
Scowling after the toad, Temari gritted her teeth before she blinked and reconsidered what Gamakichi had told her. Her weasel summon was only useful for combat really but it seemed the toads were different. His warning was actually a kindness, she shivered as she imagined inadvertently insulting the giant toad Naruto had summoned to fight Gaara. She had wondered why Naruto always treated the toads as old friends and now she had her answer. Not allowing herself to relax simply because help would be on the way shortly, Temari continued to stand guard over Naruto.
Hearing the distinctive noise of dripping water, Naruto groaned as he awakened into the sewer near the Kyubi. Fantastic, he thought sarcastically. Get my ass kicked by Itachi, earn a free trip to visit the Fox. Oh yay. Opening his eyes, he was disturbed by the sight of the Kyubi leering at him with what he read as a sarcastic smirk. "Alright," he said tiredly. "You look like you have something you want to say, so go ahead."
"Pathetic ningen," the Kyubi growled. "Beaten into the ground by that cursed Uchiha. You're lucky he wasn't here to kill you. You didn't even try to break out of the genjutsu he used on you."
Naruto shrugged. "Not much of a point, Itachi got Kakashi-sensei with what I believe is the same jutsu and if he couldn't get out." Naruto trailed off intending to allow the fox to draw his own conclusion.
"You utter imbecile!" the fox roared in response. "Those cursed eyes are powerful but using my power it is possible that you could have escaped!"
"Says the giant fuzzball that got enslaved to an Uchiha's will!" Naruto shot back in irritation.
The Kyubi bared it's teeth at Naruto and viciously snarled. "You speak of things you do not KNOW! Madara was far more powerful than the remnants of his clan could ever dream of being."
Naruto crossed his arms and glared back, unfazed by the Kyubi's volume. "Perhaps but you aren't exactly a reliable witness are you? You say I could have used your power to escape but we both know you mean Your escape and I refuse to do anything that would help you do that. I have read my predecessors journals, my mother and Mito-bachan's. I can't say that I know what you feel, being released from slavery to Madara only to be locked away and imprisoned for 'the good of the world.' Still, despite my sympathies, my role is to keep you imprisoned." Approaching the bars with a sad expression, Naruto listened as the Kyubi's growls took an odd tone he'd never heard before.
"I used to hate you," he told the fox quietly. "Before I read the journals, I thought like everyone else that you were just a mass of chakra and hate. Now, well I still don't exactly like you, you're a complete ass-hat most of the time but I don't hate you anymore."
"I don't need your pity ningen," the Kyubi responded after settling down, head resting on its paws. "Sooner or later, that seal will fail and I will devour you and everyone you care for. That is the truth."
Naruto sighed as he felt a tug on his chakra indicating he was waking up. "I won't let you," he said, determination in every word. "Even if the seal fails someday, I will find a way to stop you even if I have to beat the point home by hand. That is my truth."
Glaring at Naruto until his form disappeared, Kurama looked over at another figure that stepped out of the darkness.
"That was just so touching," the figure of Naruto but with jet black eyes said sarcasticly. "I could just cry."
Kurama gave the figure an unamused look. "I find it humorous that he says such things but has a monster like you living in his subconscious. Of course, you're even weaker than he is aren't you," he finished with a sneer.
"Strength is relative," the dark Naruto shrugged. "I am what drives him even if he doesn't realize it. Sooner or later he will realize my truth. When that happens, you know our deal. You may destroy anything you like but Temari-chan is mine."
"I'm aware of the deal, lying is for you humans," Kurama replied evenly. "I find it hard to believe you would follow through with the arrangement given that freeing me would mean your death."
A feral grin crossed the dark Naruto's face at that. "I just want to watch the world burn."
It didn't take Tsunade long to arrive trailing several ANBU guards and Temari finally relaxed. Explaining everything to her didn't take long and the Hokage wasted little time examining Naruto.
"Damn," Tsunade cursed. "It seems your husband had a run in with Itachi Uchiha," she told Temari. Motioning the guards to carry Naruto inside, Tsunade ran a quick medical scan of Temari as well before following.
"Hokage-sama?" Temari questioned as she tagged along. "What was that for?"
Tsunade replied absently as her gaze followed Naruto's body. "Just being cautious. You know how important you and your children are to both Suna and Konoha."
Temari nodded, it made sense to her. Rubbing the hand not carrying her fan across her stomach, she frowned. "Did you find anything?"
Arriving in the master bedroom where the ANBU had placed Naruto, Tsunade stopped and faced Temari. "No," she said with a gentle smile that seemed odd on her. "You and the twins are doing wonderfully." Glancing at Naruto again, she frowned again. "Did you speak to Naruto before this happened? I know there was some friction from the Suna mission. Naruto seemed rather down about it at the debriefing."
"Yes, I had a, hmm, very enlightening conversation with someone before I went and found him on the Hokage monument. We talked and got things straightened out but I'm going to have to train him on how to deal with angry women I think."
Tsunade smirked and began running medical chakra through her hands as she moved them around Naruto's head. "Good luck with that, I'm not sure men really can be trained for that."
Temari shook her head. "Well, maybe not angry women in general, more just dealing with me when I'm pissed. I wanted him to talk to me, but he was afraid of making me more angry which then pissed me off more. Rather vicious circle really and I owe the pink one a thank you I'm going to have to force out for telling me about it."
Tsunade frowned. "Sakura huh? Why do you hate her so much? Don't try to deny it, I've seen the way you watch her."
Placing her fan in its spot near the bed, Temari scowled and crossed her arms. "She's a threat," she finally replied. "I've seen what he was willing to do to save her, both times actually."
Tsunade paused in her healing to look at Temari in disbelief. "You consider her a threat? You know that Naruto is one of the most loyal people ever don't you?"
"Yes, but he is also loyal to her!" Temari snapped back. Her tone softened as she looked at her husband laying on the bed. "Originally I didn't want this, even if I did agree to it for the sake of the village. Still I was determined that if I was to be the sacrifice then he would at least be mine alone" She paused and gazed at the ceiling her eyes distant. "He grows on you though, always trying to make me happy. I didn't know it until earlier this evening but I actually fell in love with the baka. Looking back now, the signs were all there but I didn't really know what I was feeling and every time he even looked at Sakura it burned."
Tsunade sighed and resumed healing Naruto. "That explains quite a bit actually. If you're worried about something like that, you could just accept her as a second wife."
"No!" Temari said flatly. "I have no plans to accept a second let alone a third wife. I am more than capable of helping him revive the Uzumaki clan on my own and he is MINE."
Finishing up with Naruto, Tsunade stepped back from the bed and regarded Temari calmly. "As the matriarch of the Uzumaki clan, the decision is obviously yours," she said diplomatically. Leaning in closer she whispered to Temari. "Just remember that it's not only your feelings that matter Temari. As painful as the idea of sharing might be, being stubborn about this could eventually cause more pain for others."
Temari gazed at Tsunade with irritation. "That may be Hokage-sama," she hissed back, "but as you said, it is my decision to make and it won't change." Raising her voice back to normal levels, Temari looked at Naruto. "Will my husband be alright Hokage-sama?"
Tsunade shook her head at the girls stubbornness. She understood it, she doubted she would have been willing to share Dan if his clan laws had allowed polygamy but the circumstances were not the same. Dan hadn't been the last of two clans, one of them descended from the Rikudou Sennin himself. She also wondered if Temari knew what sort of pressure she would be under from the other clans. Still, it was Temari's decision and it wasn't Tsunade's place to tell her otherwise. "Yes, I've repaired the damage from Itachi's genjutsu but he seems exhausted. There is something odd though, his chakra signature seems different from the last time I had to heal him."
"What?" Temari asked alarmed. "Chakra signatures don't just change, are you sure that's really Naruto?"
Tsunade rolled her eyes in exasperation and crossed back to Naruto. Pulling up his shirt to show Temari his stomach she channeled a small amount of medical chakra causing Naruto's seal to appear. "It's Naruto. It's only a small difference, most med-nin wouldn't even detect it. As I said, it's odd, but, well, this IS Naruto."
Temari could only nod glumly at the conclusion. For some reason, Naruto had both the best and worst luck she'd ever seen. Trouble seemed to just follow him and while he usually came out on top, it was still frustrating.
Tsunade stretched and cracked her neck before heading for the door. "It's late, let him know that I want him in my office in the morning."
Temari nodded and pulled a chair over to sit next to the bed by Naruto. She eyed her side of the bed longingly but sighed as she reached over to hold his hand. She really wanted to lay down but since Naruto had been in a fight, it was possible he might wake up still believing himself to be fighting. She couldn't afford the chance he might strike her before he realized where he was. Running her other hand across her stomach she grumbled at her babies. "Not even born and already trouble for me, just like your father." Humming a lullaby she vaguely remembered from her mother, Temari sat watch over Naruto until the stresses of the day caught up with her and she fell asleep.
Awakening to more pleasant circumstances this time, his bedroom from the looks of it, Naruto felt a pressure on his hand and looked down. A small smile formed on his face when he saw Temari sleeping in a chair next to the bed but still holding his hand. A small whimper from his wife in her sleep made him frown and he wondered why she was sleeping in the chair. Gently disengaging his hand from hers, he slid out of bed and carefully pried Temari out of the chair and carried her to her side of the bed. His hands tied up carrying Temari, he stared at the bed for a moment wondering how he was going to slide the covers down before he mentally smacked himself and briefly pulsed his chakra to form a shadow clone.
He was surprised when he only created the single clone he'd wanted. Normally if he tried to create clones without hand-seals, his control over the jutsu was poor and he created anywhere from five to ten. Shrugging it aside as something to consider later, the clone pulled the covers down for him then dispelled. Laying Temari down, he smiled as he smoothed her hair down getting a soft sound of contentment from her. Loosening up the belt on her robe so that it wasn't so tight, he pulled the covers up and kissed her forehead before leaving the room, hitting the lights as he went.
Heading downstairs, he stopped and glared at his jacket hanging by the front door before snatching it and throwing it on. Muttering under his breath about needing other places to put storage seals he wouldn't carelessly hand away, he almost ran over Gamakichi sitting outside the door. "Kichi? What are you doing here?"
The small toad glared at Naruto and held a webbed hand out. "I ran an errand for your wife and she didn't pay me."
Palming his face, Naruto opened the door and motioned for Gamakichi to follow him. Making his way to the kitchen, Naruto pulled out a large sack of candy and dumped a portion into a much smaller bag. Handing it over, he apologized. "Sorry Gamakichi, I don't know if Ero-Sennin explained summon payments to her, I know I didn't."
Popping one of the candies in his mouth, Gamakichi looked up at Naruto. "Don't sweat it aniki, I know it wasn't on purpose and she was pretty worried with you being all dead looking in the garden. What happened anyway, you really freaked me out when Temari-aneki summoned me."
Naruto groaned, he wasn't looking forward to telling Tsunade his news and now Gamakichi was asking about it as well. Still, as a summons bound to Konoha, the Toads had every right to know about events that would affect them like his news. "I need to go find Baa-chan but since the Toads should know, you might as well tag along."
Gamakichi eyed him and stuck another candy in his mouth. "That bad huh? Well, you've got the wrong toad for that. I'm gonna pop back to the mountain and get someone higher up the chain."
"It's not Gamabunta is it? Cause I'm not sure he'd fit," Naruto said a bit worried.
Gamakichi laughed at the look on Naruto's face. "Nah, Pops isn't good for diplomatic stuff," he said causing Naruto to boggle at the thought of Bunta being a diplomat. "I'll go have someone else wake up the Toad Sages."
Naruto considered Kichi's words carefully. "Someone else? Why not wake them up yourself?"
"Cause I'm not stupid," Gamakichi replied before dispelling himself.
"Great," Naruto muttered as he went back outside. "He went to go get someone he's afraid of waking up. That's just .. perfect." Leaving the grounds, he took to the rooftops as he arrowed in on the Hokage tower. Entering the Hokage's office by his favorite window like both of his sensei, he was confused to find the office empty. A muffled snort of laughter from the edge of the room caused him to turn and look as an ANBU member showed himself.
"Uzumaki-sama, you do realize that Hokage-sama isn't usually in her office at three in the morning," the cat masked ANBU said with an undercurrent of laughter.
Naruto stared at the ANBU in confusion. Uzumaki-sama? He thought. That's new. Rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, he grinned at the masked man. "Sorry Neko-san, I guess I didn't really think about it before I headed over this way. Do you have a way to summon her, I have very important matters to inform her of."
Naruto could feel the evaluation in the gaze of the ANBU before the man shrugged. "I can, but you'd better be sure about the importance of the news or you might become a stain on the floor."
Naruto grinned wryly. "Yeah, I've been hit by her before but it is very important."
The ANBU bowed slightly in response. "As you wish Uzumaki-sama."
Watching the ANBU fade back into the shadows, Naruto idly wondered if the man had been a Nara. He had his own ways to disappear but sinking into the shadows was really cool. Wandering over tot eh window to look out over the town, Naruto allowed his mind to wander as he daydreamed about the time when he would claim this office as his own. Turning he looked at the picture of his father and scowled at it before a small smile took it's place. Knowing what he knew now, he was of mixed opinion about his father. He was still a hero but now he was aware that the Hero had been only a man in the end. Even the old question of why he'd been chosen as the prison for the Kyubi had been answered though it left a strong distaste in his mouth. What had happened that night, why had the Kyubi escaped his mother. The seal of a jinchuriki was at its weakest when giving birth but surely his mother and father, both seal masters, had considered that in advance. Something else had happened that night but the journals told him nothing since both had died.
A popping sound behind him startled him and caused him to turn and see a cloud of summoning smoke clearing to reveal an odd-looking toad in a brown cloak with white eyebrows, goatee and mohawk. This is who Gamakichi was afraid to wake up? Naruto thought bewildered. His confusion cleared as the toad made eye contact, there was a strength in those eyes not reflected in his small frame.
"Ahh, so you're the tadpole Jiraiya-chan added to the contract," he croaked at Naruto as he examined him. "You look very much like your father young one, if perhaps more orange."
Naruto rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Ah, I'm pleased you remember him," he replied formally. "I'm Uzumaki-Namikaze Naruto, may I have the honor of your name?"
"My, such manners for a first greeting, but somehow they don't suit you boy. My name is Fukasaku, my wife Shima and I are refereed to as the 'Two Great Sage Toads' on the mountain. I understand from Gamakichi-kun that you have important information?"
"Umm, Sennin Ji-chan we're waiting on the Hokage. I don't want to have to repeat the story more than I have to."
Fukasaku exploded into a wheezing laughter. "Grandpa Sage huh? I knew that those manners didn't suit you."
"I call the Hokage Baa-chan, and Jiraiya Ero-Sennin," Naruto shrugged in reply. "I'm not really great at all the formal stuff."
Doubling over with laughter at the nicknames for two of the more powerful ninja ever produced by Konoha, Fukasaku struggled to control himself. Still snickering he addressed Naruto. "All truly fitting nicknames but don't sell yourself short, for such short notice you weren't too terrible with the formalities. Nothing a bit of training won't fix anyway. You'll need it if it is truly your desire to have this office in the future."
Naruto stared at Fukasaku in shock. "How do you know that?" he managed to stammer out.
"Jiraiya-chan won't shut-up about you when he visits the mountain," Fukasaku replied evenly. "He isn't just running at the mouth though, the contract between us Toads and you is much deeper then just a parchment. We have to know our summoners, know if they are truly worthy of the honor of the contract. So Jiraiya told us everything he knew about you, your likes, dislikes, dreams, everything. As a whole, we Toads have come to the conclusion, reinforced by this meeting, that you are indeed worthy of our contract." Fukasaku reached out with his walking stick and tapped Naruto on the chest. "You have a good heart young man."
Naruto had tears in his eyes by the time Fukasaku was finished speaking. He wasn't really use to praise and hearing from the old toad that the Toads as a whole approved of him was an overwhelming moment. Quickly getting his emotions under control and wiping the back of his hand across his face to clear the moisture from his eyes, he bowed to the old toad. "I'm an honored by the decision of the Toads."
"Ahh, the formalities again," Fukasaku chuckled. "See, you're getting better at it already."
Naruto was about to reply, something much less formal and far less flattering when the office door slammed open and a pissed Tsunade stormed into the office. "Gaki, it's just after three in the morning. When I told your wife to have you report to my office in the morning, THIS WAS NOT WHAT I MEANT."
Reeling a bit from the extreme volume Tsunade generated at the end of her rant, Naruto blinked. "Sorry Baa-chan, I didn't hear anything from Temari-chan, when I woke up she was asleep in a chair and I came here right after I tucked her into bed."
Tsunade grunted as she sat in her chair behind the desk and massaged her temples. "Alright Naruto, if you didn't hear from Temari, why are you here now. Also, why is there a toad sage in my office?"
"Tsunade-chan," Fukasaku greeted her neutrally. The Toads and the Slugs were civil with one another but she wasn't a toad summoner so she mattered little to Fukasaku other than as the Hokage.
"Well," Naruto began thinking of how to explain things. "I had a little run in with Itachi tonight and I learned some really bad things." Taking a deep breath Naruto laid out the entire encounter from start to finish. "So basicly, we've got just under five years to prepare for pretty much every ninja in the world to descend on Konoha trying to claim the Gobi for their own."
Tsunade had gone from kneading her temples to drumming her fingers on the desk harshly. "Naruto, why is it everything with you is always such a pain in the ass? Damn it, we're going to have to take this to the council," she practically spit out. "This will certainly feed into Danzo's agenda."
Maybe," Naruto replied after a moment of thought. "Give the old man credit, he is loyal to what he sees as Konoha, the idea of every other shinobi village striking at once might even kill him off for us. Still, he and his forces would be very useful."
Tsunade nailed Naruto with a glare. "Forces?" She asked. "What forces?"
Naruto cursed in his head over his slip of the tongue. Tsunade being involved would complicate his plans to take Root down but then again, the current situation did as well. Sighing he explained everything he'd learned from his father's journal about Root and Danzo's role.
"Why didn't you tell me about this before?" Tsunade asked Naruto with a certain amount of heat. "I am the Hokage, if there is something like this in the village, I should know about it."
"Sorry Baa-chan but I was planning on taking it down myself and I'm fairly sure Ero-Sennin was planning something as well. You already had enough to deal with after Sandaime-jiji's death."
Tsunade growled something foul and continued to glare at Naruto. "I'm still pissed at you and Jiraiya but I suppose you're right, that sort of organization will be useful, much as I hate to admit it."
"Naruto-kun," Fukasaku spoke up. "You are perhaps a bit young for it, but perhaps it is time for you to visit Mount Myoboku. You can't learn Sage techniques until your body develops further but there are many things we can do to prepare you for when you can learn them."
Naruto hesitated, training was awesome but Temari was seven months pregnant and he really doubted she'd be happy with him if he just up and disappeared. "Sennin Ji-chan, I truly appreciate the offer but my wife is pregnant and due in just over two months."
"That shouldn't be a problem," Fukasaku said. "Your wife is also a toad summoner so she is welcome to come along or we can simply summon you in the morning and return you in the evening." He turned to Tsunade. "Will you be willing to part with his services for several months Hokage-sama?"
Tsunade steepled her fingers and gazed at the two over them. "I am but I will need him available in emergencies and for council meetings."
"Easily done," Fukasaku replied. "With your leave then Hokage-sama, I believe Naruto and I should go ask his wife which option she prefers." With a nod of his head at her in place of a bow, Fukasaku grabbed Naruto's hand and dragged him out of the room.
Following behind Naruto as he headed home, Fukasaku asked Naruto questions about recent events. Arriving at the estate, Naruto lead Fukasaku into the garden rather than inside. "Naruto-kun, why are we here, we came to ask your wife a question."
Naruto watched the rising sun grimly. Explaining things to Tsunade had taken a great deal of time. "We are going to wait until she wakes up before we ask."
"Cause I don't want to die."
"There's always, always a choice. My options might really, truly suck, but that doesn't mean there isn't a choice."
― Jim Butcher, Cold Days
Well, this chapter went a bit different then I thought it would. Oh well, turned out ok I think. Oh, remember that the Toads operate a lot like the Yakuza and Aneki is the feminine version of Aniki. o7